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The machine, an ornithopter, is inspired by sketches made by Leonardo da Vinci in 1485. ((Canadian Press))

A University of Toronto student has achieved what's believed to be a first in aviation.

Todd Reichert, a PhD candidate, has built a human-powered aircraft with flapping wings that the school says set a world record by flying continuously.

The machine — an ornithopter — is inspired by sketches made by Leonardo da Vinci in 1485.

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Reichert says the wing-flapping device sustained both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds, and covered a distance of 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 kilometres per hour. ((Canadian Press))

Reichert flew his aircraft, called the Snowbird, in Tottenham, Ont., on Aug. 2 as a witness from the world-governing body for air sports and aeronautical world records watched.

The university says the organization is expected to confirm the ornithopter's world record in October.

Reichert says the wing-flapping device sustained both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds, and covered a distance of 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 kilometres per hour.

Although its wingspan is comparable to that of a Boeing 737, around 32 metres, the machine weighs just 43 kilograms.

HPO Flight from U of T Engineering on Vimeo.